Trying to learn the ropes at your new office? Here’s what you really need to know.
Poor Tara. Killed by a shotgun blast to the head while protecting Sookie on last season’s True Blood finale, our heroine’s sassy friend has been turned into a fang gal.
Despite Tara’s known hatred of anything vampire, Sookie and cousin Lafayette couldn’t bear to not have Tara around anymore. So the duo asked the undead’s Pam to turn her into a vampire. True Blood fans know the outcome: the fledgling Tara is now wandering around really pissed off, having become the very creature that once made her skin crawl.
You’ve gotta feel for Tara. Finding your way in a new environment is never easy. The same thing applies to the work scene, where the new hire at the office often feels just as marginalized as someone who’s shed a previous human identity.
Yet the perils of True Blood’s Tara need not be your fate. How can you maximize those new employee challenges? It’s all about and how to fill in those gaps.
1. Learn where the power lies
Tara’s maker holds the key, but figuring out the name of the top player can be tough and time-consuming for new hires. Often those hierarchical organization charts aren’t quite the real deal.
The solution is to do a reality check and pay attention. Sometimes people lower in rank hold the true power. At meetings, observe who brings up the ideas that are most enthusiastically embraced, who answers with the most confidence and depth and who defers to whom.
2. Go digging for cultural nuances
Vampires have gorged, slept and fornicated the same way over centuries. New employees, on the other hand, need to assess which behaviors are rewarded and which are frowned upon in their new environment. Is it hard work, institutional knowledge, or maybe simply being a team player?
The solution is to ask the people who know, so invite your new coworkers to lunch or coffee. Casually ask them how they’d characterize the environment and what top management values—or won’t tolerate.
3. Study your boss’s style
Vampires pretty much know how to please their makers, but you may have only scratched the surface of your supervisor’s personality during the interview process. His or her daily behavior may be another deal entirely—that calm demeanor when hiring you may have simply masked the walking-and-talking thunderbolt persona you now have to deal with day in and day out.
Learning what the boss’s true colors are and what he or she expects from you can take time. When you do, can solidify your relationship. And don’t forget to pay attention to those people in the company your boss considers to be allies and trouble makers. They matter.
4. Play it cool with idiosyncratic groups
Fangs are easy identifiers. Not so at the office. Some groups consist of the hard workers, others speak in tech, still others seem to do nothing but . Yes, it’s just like high school, where falling in with the wrong crowd can mean a disastrous start.
Because we all want to please and fit in, it’s quite tempting to accept the first invitation to join up with a contingency. The best strategy is to stay neutral while you remain objective and figure out which group is which. Don’t share personal information and, above all, don’t gossip or listen to gossip. Until you know the field, simply tell people, “I appreciate your ideas, and I just want to stay open for awhile and learn a bit more about everything.”
5. Understand your company’s true reputation
Vampires are pretty much their own cottage industry. For the rest of us, it’s tougher to assess where companies stand. How a firm is really valued—in reputational and financial terms—is not always obvious.
The solution is to do as much due diligence as possible . Read what trend-watchers in the industry are saying about the company, join discussion groups and speak frankly with your headhunter, even after you’ve joined the firm.
is a business advisor who specializes in individual and organizational behavioral change. She’s the award-winning author of five books, including Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go (ATA Press, 2012).